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Symptoms of Schizophrenia

 iHope’s Schizophrenia Symptoms infographics

Schizophrenia affects everyone differently and everyone’s experience will be different. At its core, schizophrenia is a brain disease that causes confusion between what is real and what is not.

People with schizophrenia may experience many different possible symptoms. These can be put into two categories: positive symptoms and negative symptoms.

Think of positive symptoms as behaviours that have been added to your life (those that should not normally be there), such as:

  • Hallucinations (seeing/hearing/feeling things that are not experienced by others)

  • Delusions (believing strongly in things that are not true)

  • Extreme obsessions (with religion or sex, for example)

  • Laughter at odd times, bizarre facial expressions or strange mannerisms

  • Talking to yourself

  • Feelings of paranoia, anxiety or confusion (often due to hallucinations or delusions)

Negative symptoms, on the other hand, are those that have been subtracted from your life (aspects of your life that seem to be missing), such as:

  • A lack of energy, motivation or interest in life

  • Showing little or no emotion

  • Withdrawal from others

  • Depression

  • Difficulties with attention, concentration, memory, planning and organization, which can inhibit your working life or academic studies

early signs of schizophrenia

It’s not uncommon for symptoms to go on for years before a diagnosis. They are often gradual in the beginning, and may even come and go. But the sooner you get help, the better the chance of recovery.


Pay attention to these early warning signs:​

  • A range of negative symptoms (see above list)

  • Unusual outbursts or antisocial behaviour

  • Talking to yourself or laughing out-of-the-blue

  • Difficulties sleeping or feeling over-tired

  • Feeling paranoid or suspicious

  • Sudden obsessions with religion or sex

recognizing a relapse

The hope is that once symptoms are under control, they’ll stay that way. But a relapse – a return or worsening of symptoms – can still happen. Most frightening, both for people with schizophrenia and their loved ones, is the possibility of a “psychotic episode” (sometimes called a “crisis” situation). This is when the person with schizophrenia can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is not. These episodes may come on gradually or suddenly, and are often triggered by not taking medication, use of alcohol or street drugs, or stressful life events.

Look for these signs of a crisis:

  • Visual hallucinations or hearing voices

  • Paranoid thinking (feeling like you or a loved one is at risk of harm)

  • Agitation and/or hostile behaviour

  • Threatening or attempting suicide

The Road to Recovery

iHope’s Schizophrenia Recovery infographics

The duration and type of symptoms is difficult to gauge as everyone's experience with schizophrenia is unique.

caregiver's corner

Whether it’s early on or your loved one is experiencing a relapse, it’s important that they get help as soon as possible to increase their chances for recovery.


What to do if you think your loved one may have schizophrenia?

If you notice early warning signs of schizophrenia, talk to a doctor right away to get them diagnosed and started on treatment before symptoms get worse. The sooner you get them help, the less likely their schizophrenia will cause problems at school, work and in other areas of their personal life.


How to respond in a crisis:

Ideally, you should have an Emergency Plan in place before your loved one experiences a psychotic episode, just in case. This should include a list of emergency contacts with phone numbers, along with information about your loved one’s medications, any allergies, insurance coverage, and their health card number.


Aside from using your Emergency Plan to get your loved one the medical help they need as quickly as you can, keep in mind these additional tips:

  • Stay calm and speak softly but firmly

  • Avoid arguing with them – reassure them as much as possible, and go along with what they want as long as no one is in danger

  • Use non-threatening phrases like “I don’t know” and “What do you think?”

  • Avoid eye contact as well as facing them head-on – distance yourself physically, as they may want more space than usual

  • Wherever you are, make sure both you and they have a clear way out – no one should feel cornered

  • If you need to, leave the room or house and seek help

  • Look into the laws in your province on involuntary hospitalization

Early Psychosis Intervention Portal   |   Hamilton, ON   |   905-525-8213   |

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